The Fraser Institute has released the tenth edition of their annual report on economic freedom in North America. The report considers how such factors as size of government, takings and discriminatory taxation, and labor market freedom affect people’s freedom to choose how to produce, sell, and use their own resources, while respecting others’ rights to do the same. Read the report below to see where your state ranks.

If corruption were a global industry, it would be the third largest, accounting for 5 percent of the global economy.

In many parts of the world, bribery and corruption are simply considered the price of doing business. However, corruption (both in business and in politics) undermines people’s trust in these institutions. Corruption also forces many people and businesses out of the marketplace and out of the political arena: those with more money are always at an advantage. Transparency International is a German-based organization that works to end corruption. Their video explains what corruption is and how it can be stopped.

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The Acton Institute is currently hosting an art exhibit called “Holodomor: Through the Eyes of a Child” in our Prince-Broekhuizen Gallery at the Acton Building. It features artworks created by contemporary Ukrainian children commemorating the great famine of the 1930s that was inflicted upon Ukraine by Stalin, resulting in the deaths of almost 7 million people by starvation.

The exhibit is the brainchild of Luba Markewycz, whose aim is to shed light on this largely unknown chapter of Ukrainian history and expose the tyranny and inhumanity of Stalin’s Communist regime. On November 6th, Markewycz – who is a teacher by profession, and has served in many roles at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago – was joined by Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg to discuss the exhibit and to shed light on the terrible historical events that it commemorates.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
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1 in 3 Americans want a divorce between clergy and civil marriages
Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service

Should clergy divorce themselves from civil marriage? Such a church-state split — already endorsed by some Catholic and evangelical leaders — is showing surprising popularity in two new surveys released Tuesday by LifeWay Research.

‘My Work is More Important than Yours,’ So Say We All
Bethany Jenkins, The Gospel Coalition

Public school districts in the United States do not prioritize dance over, say, math. This is not, however, a mere accident of history.

What It Means to Listen: Free Speech from the Perspective of the Abrahamic Religions
Dominic Burbidge, Public Discourse

The Abrahamic religions provide a radical interpretation of the importance of speech: it is the primary way in which God reveals himself. Because persons of faith believe that God has spoken, they are called to develop and deepen their capacities for listening.

It’s the greatest achievement in human history, and one you probably never heard about
Mark J. Perry, AEI Ideas

Dartmouth economics professor Douglas Irwin has an excellent op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal — “The Ultimate Global Antipoverty Program,” with the subtitle “Extreme poverty fell to 15% in 2011, from 36% in 1990. Credit goes to the spread of capitalism.”

abc apToday, Pope Francis met with Orthodox, Anglican, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu representatives to sign a Declaration of Religious Leaders against Slavery. Pope Francis thanked those in attendance for making the public commitment to end modern slavery in all its forms. He spoke of the spirit of fraternity among believers, along with the knowledge that humans, created in God’s image and likeness, deserve dignity, regardless of their circumstances. (more…)

o-man-taller-facebookFor most of my life I was, at 5-foot-10, of exactly average height. But in the span of one day in 1989 I became freakishly tall.

While I hadn’t grown an inch upward, I had moved 6,000 miles eastward to Okinawa, Japan. Since the average height of native Okinawans was only 5-foot-2, I towered over most every native islander by 8 inches. It was the equivalent of being 6-foot-6 in the United States.

Unfortunately, when I would leave the towns of Okinawa and step back onto the military base I instantly shrunk back to average height. My height advantage only lasted as long as I got to choose my point of reference.

Where did the truth lie? Was I truly tall or only of average height? The answer was completely dependent on my point of reference. Height, after all, is just a statistical artifact.

While this example may seem silly and rather obvious, it highlights how we our choice of what is a relevant standard of comparison can shape our thinking on important matters of economic policy. Take, for instance, the issue of poverty and income inequality. As Robert Higgs explains,
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speculationThe practice of speculation draws mixed reactions among Christians, as some believe it is intrinsically evil and others see great good coming from it. Over at Legatus Magazine, Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, hopes to shed some light on whether or not Christians should engage in speculation. The Roman Catholic Catechism condemns specific types of speculation, but Gregg argues that the practice could be justified in other situations not addressed by the Catechism. However, before Christians accept or reject it, it’s important that we understand this financial tool in all its complexity. Gregg quotes the Catholic Catechism:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies “speculation in which one contrives to manipulate the price of goods artificially in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others” as “morally illicit” (CCC #2409).. This wording indicates that there are legitimate forms of speculation, though these are left unspecified.

He continues:

The justice of different choices denoted as “speculative” depends upon the specifics of a given choice. Speculation that relies, for instance, upon telling falsehoods is wrong because choosing to lie is, in Christian terms, always wrong. It would be equally unjust for a financial firm to try and manipulate the futures market by expressing to others excessive optimism or negativity about the prospects for a given commodity.

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Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
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"Tree Grace" - Mako Fujimura

“Tree Grace” – Mako Fujimura

Are you creative? No, that’s not one of those silly Facebook quizzes; it’s a serious question. Would you describe yourself as “creative?”

Turns out, that’s a pretty important question. Folks who study such things say that “creativity” is one of the things employers are looking for in today’s workforce, and not just in places like Silicon Valley. While we value creativity in our culture, it seems as if we’re quashing it in our kids: Common Core doesn’t exactly call for “outside the box” thinking.

Are you creative? If you say “no,” then can you be taught to be creative? It seems that you can. Gerard Puccio at Buffalo State College in New York teaches creativity. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
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Pope seeks meeting with Russian Orthodox leader, but says theological agreement impossible
Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

“I said I’ll go wherever you want — you call me and I’ll go. And he also has the same desire,” Francis said. “But with the problems of the war, the poor guy [Patriarch Kirill] has so many problems, so a meeting with the pope will have to wait. But we do want to meet. We want to go forward.”

Patriarch Kirill: ‘The Lack of Morals Is Incompatible with Happiness’
Pravmir

“Thus a question arises: are God’s Commandments, being so old-fashioned, guiding stars as well?,” Kirill asked. “The answer is simple: they are the only guiding stars.”

Our giant welfare state
Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post

Call it a massive case of national self-deception. Indeed, judged by how much of their national income countries devote to social spending, we have the world’s second-largest welfare state — just behind France.

Redeeming Gratitude, Wonder & Work
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Before the Fall, we were designed for and called to work. But after Adam sinned, our souls were severed from relationship with their Creator. The Fall affected creation, too. The ground does not respond the way it was intended to, and work now involves toil.

Blog author: ehilton
Monday, December 1, 2014
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European-Parliament-StrasbourgPope Francis spoke to members of the European Parliament on November 25. The focus of his speech was “dignity:” specifically the transcendent dignity of the human person.

He reminded his audience that the protection of dignity was key to rebuilding Europe following World War II, but now, the pope says, ” there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.”

Pope Francis then declared that dignity is intimately intertwined with faith, and the governments of Europe must protect the right to practice one’s faith. (more…)